Monday, January 26, 2009

NADAC: The career saver!

A mild limp. A more severe limp. Consults. Surgery. Lots of money. The end of a career. The end of playtime. Those were all of the things that my girl Heidi has been faced with since late March of last year. What started out as "oh, she probably just pulled a muscle" quickly turned into "Oh my God, life as Heidi knows it is over."
We went to many wonderful orthopedic surgeons for consults on why she was limping so severly, and they all seemed to have their own, and very different, opinions. My mom and I were torn between what to do for her: go the conservative management route, and let her heal on her own? (essentially keeping her quiet and not allowing any fun sheltie activities for 6 months atleast) or try the surgical route and try to fix her (still with a quiet time for recovery, but possibly having her back to normal sooner). We opted the surgical route. Unfortunately, to no avail. The surgeon who performed the arthroscopic proceedure found nothing substantial. Both elbows looked good, but her tendons in her shoulder were angry looking, and inflammed. But nothing to suggest the loss of most of the range of motion in that shoulder. We were lost.
Its been over a year now, and we're still dealing with the same issues. We did PT with her, and have restricted her activited (no hard ball/frisbee playing, no jumping off the couch, no stairs etc.) And perhaps most devastating of all, NO AGILITY. The constant slamming on her front end when taking jumps, scurrying down the A-Frame, and sloleming through the weave-poles would do more damage to her shoulder, and would put her future mobility in jeopardy. If we kept on with agility now, she may not be able to enjoy the less stressful, less impacting things that she loves in her later years; like hiking, obedience, and playing with her toys. I couldnt risk doing that to her. Not for a game. No matter how much she loves to play, and no matter how good at it she is.
Heidi has always been the less athletic of the two, but she DEFINITELY has more drive and work-ethic. She wants to do anyting for you...anything that you ask. She would absolutely be a PAX dog, if her career were able to continue. She works wide, so she has great distance skills and hits her weave entry EVERY TIME, ar ANY angle. She is amazing to watch.
But now, ending her career, and so certainly was dissappointing. Of course I dont have Heidi just to work her. Shes my family, my child...a little piece of my soul. As much as we both hated it, I had to pull her from competition and practice, forever, to keep her healthy, happy, and mobile.
Or so I thought!
Thats where NADAC comes in. I started researching other agility venues other than the AKC to see if there was SOMETHING that Heidi would still be allowed to compete in. And I found it! NADAC has wonderful options for dogs that, for one reason or another, may not be able to jump. They have the tunnelers course (which ONLY has tunnels) and the newest game, HOOPERS. Hoopers is a game where a hoop (usually a hula-hoop) is attatched between two jump stantions. The hoop rests on the connecting piece between the two stantions on the bottom, or in the absence of the connecting piece, on the ground. The dog just needs to run through the hoop! NO JUMPING!
When I first saw the course, I figured it was just like any other Jumpers course, but with no weaves, and the hoops instead of jumps. But when I went to my first trial last month what I learned (thank you to the judge who let me walk the course, even when I wasnt entered!) was that you have to do a non-test exercise (a set of jumps that must be taken in a certain order) and then a test (also jumps that must be taken in certain order) and then repeated a certain number of times that is dependant on the level/class you are in. A better summary can be found here:
Usually Im not fond of strategy games (which is why I have shown in AKC only for so long) but this was fun, and simple to follow. The judge gave good direction, and almost everyone Q'd. The dogs who didnt usually just ran by a hoop because they had never seen them before!
I was not only extremely excited that there were options for Heidi to come out of retirement and to compete in something new, but the venue was much smaller and less crowded. There seemed to be much more of a calm and non-competetive air that AKC lacks. Alot of my friends who also compete in CPE tell me this is how it seems there as well. There was a whole table of food, and all they asked for was donations. I think when my girls and I start showing in NADAC in the fall, our sheltie-shaped cookies will become a staple at that table!
And yes, I mentioned showing the GIRLS in the fall! Dont think that Shelby will be forgotten about! Not only will Shelby be able to compete in the same classes as her sister, but she will also have the other fun options as the regular classes that she is used to (Standard and Jumpers) AND some fun new games as well (touch n' go and weavers).
Im so excited that there are people out there who thought of these wonderful options for people like me and dogs like Heidi who just weren't ready to hang up our running shoes and baitbags yet.
We'll start trialing this fall, and will of course update on how we do!

*Authors Note: This blog was origonally posted last June. Due to health issues of my own, we have not started competition yet. The issues are still unresolved, so I am unsure when we will finally be able to begin, but you can be sure I'll tell you all about it!

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